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Science provides innumerable benefits in our lives but poses just as many urgent questions. The aim of this subject is to explore the role of science in our society by drawing on recent scholarly work in sociology and philosophy of science. The first part of the course will introduce several conceptions of scientific knowledge, and of the role of scientists and their knowledge in society. The second part of the course will apply these intellectual tools to some of the pressing questions about contemporary science. What is the relationship between science, technology and the market? To what extend should science be directed by values? What role do or should scientists play in policy decisions? What role should ‘the public’ play in setting research priorities? What is a scientific expert? Why do we disagree about climate change? Has science shown that race is a social construct?
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this subject will:
- develop a basic understanding of key theoretical approaches to science as a system of knowledge and its place in contemporary society that have been developed in the humanities and social sciences;
- be able to apply these theoretical approaches to the analysis of contemporary or historical case-studies;
- demonstrate an understanding of different images of 'good science' and different accounts of what role values and politics should play in decision-making about social issues involving technical knowledge.
Last updated: 26 March 2020